Engaging students online: an analysis of students’ motivations for seeking individual learning development support
Keywords:learning development tutorials, one-to-one support, student engagement, online learning, Covid-19
In the context of increased concerns with student engagement across the Higher Education sector, which have intensified subsequent to the rapid transition to online delivery in March 2020, this small-scale research project aimed to explore the motivations for student engagement in self-selecting learning development (LD) online tutorials.
The study used a mixed methods approach, including an online survey (n=43) and online interviews (n=5). The sample comprised undergraduate and postgraduate volunteers recruited from from a pool of LD tutorial users (n=390) within the project timeframe (October 2020-April 2021). The generalisability of findings is limited by the low response rate as well as age bias.
The main driver for engagement reported was participants’ limited confidence in their own academic writing abilities, which was consistently linked to attainment. Engagement was further motivated through a range of perceived impacts, including improved confidence, awareness of academic conventions, and higher grades. In this context, the main challenge was limited availability of support. Participants reported a generally positive attitude towards online delivery. Qualitative data from both the survey and interviews were further investigated using a discourse analysis framework. One key finding was that the path to LD engagement is often mediated by academic authority figures, who may exert a significant impact on learner self-views. Key recommendations for learning developers include maximising the potential of lessons learned from the enforced pivoting to online delivery to underpin the developmental dimension of LD, with the ultimate goal of promoting learner confidence and growth.
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